Thursday, January 13, 2011

Off the grid for one month

A few site announcements here. First, it may be a bit quiet for the next month because I will be out of Japan and completely off the grid except for a satellite uplink (that won't be used for blogging). When I get back, I'll try to respond to any email, but it may take me a while. I am also temporarily turning on comment moderation.

And please welcome Nicholas as a contributor to SBS. For now he'll be approving comments while I'm away, but he certainly has a lot to contribute regarding linux and android, so I am looking forward to his future posts.

Docomo SH-03C with green SIM may not connect to emergency services

Via Juggy I learned that the Docomo Lynx 3D SH-03C may not be able to connect to emergency services such as 110, 118, and 119 if it has a GREEN SIM card. Details from Docomo here (J), but it is a software issue and an update is coming by the end of the month. In the meantime, if you have this phone, yank the battery and check the color of the SIM. If it's green you can take it to a shop to have it switched for a white one.

You can still connect to emergency services by prefacing the number with either 186 or 184.

Question from reader: Is softbank throttling streams during peak hours?

Brian is experiencing streaming issues every day beginning in the late afternoon to early evening with his UK Dell Streak on Softbank. Unlike the previously reported issues, this is not limited to Tokyo and he is still getting normal uplink speeds.

Anyone else experiencing something similar?
Over October and December I have been using Audiogalaxy to stream music from my PC to my phone during my (exceptionally long) commute. Yea its a bit data intensive, but I don't really care!

Anyway, ever since the turn of the new year, my streaming service has been skipping like a first generation CD player after around 4:00 in the afternoon (don't know when exactly it starts). The thing that leads me to believe this isn't just about network congestion, though, is that it happens whether I am way out of Tokyo in the inaka, or in central Tokyo. My download/upload speed remains decent (for Softbank anyway), and while it has considerable trouble streaming the music, doing other network activities like web browsing or playing online games are uninterrupted.

So it could be that Softbank has initiated a policy of throttling certain web services during peak hours. Perhaps people on your blog can confirm/deny this?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Downloadable offline Google Tokyo maps for android

I recently had the need to put together some google maps for offline use. While I was at it, I created a map pack for inside the Tokyo Yamanote line. Here are links to an rmaps version and a maverick versionRmaps and maverick lite are both free and support user-generated maps. Mapdroyd is also free and will download OpenStreetMap format vector maps, which are much smaller in size but of lower detail. You can use any of these programs and the proper maps downloaded to find your way with only the GPS on your android phone.

Google Maps 5 now caches maps, but it doesn't work with my ht-03a, perhaps either because vector maps aren't supported, or because I'm doing it wrong. Maverick will also cache them. Either way, I'd rather know for sure that I've downloaded any maps I need before I am in an area with no connection, rather than zooming around the entire area and hoping all the tiles get cached properly.

It is actually not hard at all to create these. I ran across this post and basically followed the directions for using Mobile Atlas Creator, a cross platform open source Java application, to create the maps. You must check every zoom level you want to display, like in the below screenshot. You can click and draw a box or directly enter lats and lons. In this case I used one simple rectangle, but you can also draw many rectangles and click the "add selection" button after each one to create a custom shape that follows trails (for example). Drag the map around by holding the control key and clicking. Maverick rmaps requires an sqlite component. I downloaded the precompiled sqlitejdbc-v056.jar from here and placed it in the Mobile Atlas Creator root directory.

Maverick is much more feature rich than rmaps but also a bit heavier. There is also Maverick Pro. A downside to Maverick is, in addition to being a bit sluggish, the way it caches tiles as individual files. The map I created of central Tokyo has over 16,000 individual little files. Depending on the sector size of your SD card, this could really balloon the total file size when copied to your phone. It also takes longer to copy and delete. Rmaps has one single file, though it is still using tiles.

Place the rmap file in the root of the SD card as follows: rmaps/maps/Custom Central Tokyo.sqlitedb. For Maverick, unzip the file and place then contents in maverick/tiles (e.g., Maverick/tiles/googlemaps/0/0/0.png.tile)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Big steps in AU Sharp IS01 root progress: froyo flash and multitouch

This isn't ready yet, but it's a big start. Someone has managed to boot froyo on the IS01. But that is about all they've done - pretty much nothing works, including the radios.

And here we have multitouch confirmed with dev tools and dolphin browser, as well as flash running with nico nico douga.

Please do not try this at home yet. What they are going is over my head. But there is light on the horizon for IS01 owners.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are Japanese Android smartphones crippled without a service contract?

EDIT2: Additional comments indicate that the crippling seems to be limited to the feature phones, though softbank at least is willing to uncripple the phone once it is fully paid off.

EDIT: confirmation in the comments section indicates that, once again, just about anything shop staff says should be disregarded.

The other day I had the rare need for a one seg TV tuner. I still have my old AU phone with one seg, so I pulled it out, plugged it in, turned it on, and fired up the TV tuner. Who knew that a service contract is required to receive terrestrial TV broadcasts? I didn't.

Oops. au ICカード(UIM)エラー ご利用出来ません. Of course I didn't expect to be able to use EZweb or any of AU's services since I'm no longer a customer, but I did expect to view freely available* television broadcasts. I also did not expect that the phone would paperweight itself simply because of no contract.

I expect too much.

I inquired at an AU Store. According to the shop staff, early one seg phones were able to receive one seg broadcasts without a valid service contract but all current models require a connection to EZweb and hence a working cellular connection, including the IS03 android smartphone. The staff actually described it as building in a wall, though we all know to take anything said by carrier shop staff with a healthy amount of skepticism.  Technically, there is no need to connect to EZweb, since programming guide and text information is included in the broadcast.

This begs the question of what other functionality is crippled once you end your contract with AU (or Docomo or Softbank). Unfortunately, the back plates of the display models are glued shut, so we weren't able to yank an IC card from an IS03 to confirm it would partially cripple itself, and the shop staff weren't about to  unbox a new one just to satisfy my curiosity.

The staff did however assure me that the one seg function of the IS03 would cease to function without service from AU. Owners of Japanese made android smartphones: Can you use all the functions of your phones (infrared, one seg, ketai osaifu, etc.) with the IC/SIM card removed?


* one seg is freely available but technically not free since Japanese law requires anyone who owns a television capable of receiving terrestrial broadcasts to pay for NHK. This includes owning a cell phone with a one seg tuner. (I've seen an NHK rep demand payment from a Japanese person whose only TV was their cell phone. It didn't end well... for the NHK rep.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Twitter for a new year

Edit: Help me out by letting me know which Android twitter client you prefer and why. How about accessories like URL shortners and pic hosting? Any clients integrate with

I've never been a fan of twitter, but I'm surprised how quickly it has taken off in Japan, especially with the tech guys. Oh well, so here I am on twitter. I was planning on using SBS, but silly me, that's Australia's Special Broadcasting Service. Instead I settled for @SBSdroid. You won't be hearing what I'm cooking for dinner, but you may hear about ROM焼き.